by Chris Buskirk
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who currently holds what I suppose we now call the Office of the Outgoing Senate Majority Leader, has to go. He’s a man unsuited for the times. The results prove it.
It is McConnell who has been the architect of Republican defeat in the Senate. Heading into the 2016 election, there were 54 Republican senators. After the election there were 52. Then, in 2018, McConnell backed the disastrous candidacy of Martha McSally for an open seat in Arizona. It was McConnell who picked her and crowded out other viable candidates. That year McSally lost by 2.4 percentage points to Kyrsten Sinema while, at the same time, Republican Doug Ducey cruised to a nearly 15-point win as Arizona’s governor.
Voters didn’t reject Republicans as such; they rejected McSally. McConnell then lobbied for McSally to be appointed to the seat vacated by John McCain, setting up another McSally defeat at the hands of Mark Kelly in November. Again, she trailed the Republican at the top of ticket, underperforming Donald Trump. And once again, it was McConnell’s doing. In Arizona he helped engineer the loss of two Republican senate seats in two years by handpicking a candidate Arizonans didn’t want.
He finished the job in 2020 with a loss in Colorado, an admittedly tough race on unfavorable terrain. But it was the run-off elections in Georgia that sealed the deal. There, McConnell selected Kelly Loeffler over elected Republicans like U.S. Representative Doug Collins for appointment to the seat held by Johnny Isakson, who resigned for health reasons. Why? McConnell never explained his rationale publicly but it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that he thought he was being clever and wagered that female candidates would get female votes that a male candidate wouldn’t get. Plus, Loeffler is very wealthy and pledged to put at least $20 million of her own money into the campaign.
How did McConnell’s 2D chess work out? Loeffler came in second in the three-way November race and came in second again in the run-off. Meaning she lost. And it looks like incumbent David Perdue will also lose and Democrats will have control of the Senate.
Don’t reward failure. Any political party that is serious about winning holds leadership accountable for losses. Trump critics have been quick to say that he owns the Georgia losses. I think that’s wrong, but he’s already been held accountable to voters. Senate Republicans need to hold McConnell accountable and find new leadership. He is simply the wrong man at the wrong time. At 78 years old, his policy priorities and his political instincts belong to another time. Republicans have a lot of work to do if they want to earn back the right to govern and if given that opportunity to use the power they are given to make life better for Americans.
When it suited him, McConnell was able to summon plenty of time and energy to pass tax cuts and bailouts for big corporations—which, incidentally, overwhelmingly support Democrats and their woke-agenda—but he could never seem to get around to passing legislation that would benefit the middle class. He was good at getting Trump’s judicial nominees confirmed, though with court-packing on Biden’s agenda it’s not clear how much that will matter. But doing that didn’t win any elections.
As Gray Connolly noted in a smart Twitter thread:
As a general rule, any conservative politics that does not propose and enact policies to conserve its working & middle classes—especially in a time of crisis or pandemic—deserves that no effort be made for its own conservation by the electors. There is significant demographic 40s & younger that has never known a sustained good economic period—prime earning years wiped out by the (great financial crisis), QE & now the Pandemic. People who are in debt & whose work is insecure & wages stagnant do not care about your kraken idiocy etc.
McConnell—and for that matter most Republican senators—either don’t know this or don’t care. The Senate was designed to be the legislative body most insulated from the excitability of electoral politics. The six-year term is supposed to allow senators to take a longer view. But the issues of concern to voters now are not temporary flights of passion and they’re not going away. In fact, the urgency is only rising and Republicans need leadership who knows it.
Mitch McConnell can’t lead Republicans out of the wilderness. His time has passed. He’ll be 84 at the end of his current term. He shouldn’t even put his name forward for a leadership position. But he will. If Republicans know what the country needs and if they want to win again, they’ll reject McConnell and find younger leadership that is ready to build a new party to serve the middle class, not the ruling class.
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Chris is publisher and editor of American Greatness and the host of The Chris Buskirk Show. He was a Publius Fellow at the Claremont Institute and received a fellowship from the Earhart Foundation. Chris is a serial entrepreneur who has built and sold businesses in financial services and digital marketing. He is a frequent guest on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Hill, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter at @TheChrisBuskirk